Fatal crashes, risky driving on the rise during pandemic, study shows

November 18, 2020 | 3:49 pm


One would think that during this pandemic, driving would be much safer due to fewer people being on our roadways. However, research is showing that drivers are exhibiting riskier behavior while driving, put everyone else at risk.

Roads in the United States are noticeably more dangerous in the COVID era than they were before, according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It states that while fewer cars are on the road during coronavirus shutdowns, more people are speeding, in part because police stopped enforcing as many traffic stops to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Also, seatbelt use has gone down, and more people have died in crashes with alcohol or other drugs in their system, according to an analysis of trauma centers.

Here are more findings form the recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report:

  • Fatality rates increased 30% in the second quarter, reversing a three-year downward trend in road fatalities.
  • The fatality rate during the second quarter of the year was 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, sharply higher than the first quarter rate of 1.10, which was in line with historical trends.
  • The study revealed a higher prevalence of alcohol, cannabinoids, and opioids in crash victims during the quarter compared to the months prior to the pandemic.

Research suggests that increased stress, more idle time, increased consumption of drugs and alcohol and greater opportunities for speeding and stunt driving would lead to more accidents rather than less, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine.

“These are troubling reports. Now more than ever, we should be watching ourselves for safe driving practices and encouraging others to do the same,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “More open roads are no excuse for speeding. Risky driving not only endangers your own life, but also the lives of others.”

In more positive news, the second quarter of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, showed a continued decline in overall traffic fatalities, the NHTSA studies found.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds drivers to please slow down, never drive while under the influence, and always wear seat belts. And if you are involved in a car accident, follow these three steps:

1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.

2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.

3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

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5 new California laws in 2018 call for safer streets and workplaces

December 27, 2017 | 9:17 am


The New Year also means new laws for California.

Several laws will take effect starting Jan. 1, including several transportation-related rules and changes. They include laws related to marijuana and driving, seat belts on buses, and a new blood alcohol concentration limit for Uber drivers.

Because Chain | Cohn | Stiles focuses on motor vehicle accidents and other roadway related injury cases, we wanted to share some of these changes as we start 2018. And since the Bakersfield-based law firm also represents victims of workplace harassment, we also share one new law related to employer supervisor training.

Learn a little more about these new laws below, courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles:

Marijuana Use in Vehicles (SB 65): This law prohibits using marijuana or marijuana products while driving or riding as a passenger in a vehicle. This includes smoking marijuana and consuming edibles in vehicles. Similar to the “open container” laws, marijuana products must be locked away or sealed in a container. If you break this law, you’ll get a negligent operator point counts. The same goes for motorcycle riders. The new law will be implemented after officers pull motorists over for separate moving violations.

Commercial Buses and Seat Belts (SB 20): This law requires passengers on commercial buses to put on a seat belt. Kids over 8 years old but under 16 years old won’t be allowed to ride unless they are restrained by a seat belt; otherwise, parents and legal guardians will be fined $20 on the first violation, and $50 thereafter.

DUI, Passenger for Hire (AB 2687): This one begins July 1, 2018, and this law makes it illegal for anyone to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or higher if there is a passenger in the vehicle who has hired the driver — like Ubers or Lyfts. This is a higher standard than the current .08 BAC for all drivers. Punishment is a suspended driver’s license if convicted.

Motorcycle Training (AB 1027): This law authorizes the DMV to accept a certificate of satisfactory completion of any motorcyclist-training program approved by the California Highway Patrol in the place of a required motorcycle skills test. Applicants for an original motorcycle license or motorcycle endorsement under 21 years of age are still required to complete a novice motorcyclist-training program.

Harassment Training (SB 396): Especially relevant now during the “Me Too” movement, employers with 50 or more employees — who are already legally required to conduct two hours of sexual harassment training every two years — must include training for supervisors that includes harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

* Update: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

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If you or someone you know is injured in a vehicle accident at the fault of someone, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Auto accidents are No. 1 cause of death of American teenagers, new study finds

June 9, 2014 | 10:17 am


It’s a sobering statistic: Auto accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teenagers, according to a new study released recently called “Teens in Cars.”

The study found that car accidents kill almost as many drivers as passengers, and kills more children than homicide or suicide.

The study — paid for by the General Motors Foundation, Safe Kids and based on a national survey of 1,000 teenagers between 13 and 19 — also found the following:

  • In half of fatalities, the teenager was not wearing a seat belt. One in four teenagers said they don’t use a seat belt on every ride. Top reasons included that they forgot, weren’t driving far, and that seat belts were uncomfortable.
  • Also, teens who didn’t wear seat belts were more likely to say they texted while driving than who wore seat belts.
  • The odds of a crash or near-crash in newly-licensed teen drivers was more than eight times greater when dialing a cell phone.
  • 49 percent of teens reported feeling unsafe when riding with a teen driver.
  • When someone was driving dangerously, four in 10 teens said they asked the driver to stop, but almost the same number said they did nothing.

In 2012, nearly 2,400 teen drivers died in motor vehicle accidents. A little more than half of the teenagers killed, 56 percent, were driving at the time of the fatal crashes; 44 percent of the victims were passengers. Only 10 percent of respondents said they’d been in cars driven by teenagers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This isn’t the first study to highlight such findings. A recent study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also put auto accidents as the No. 1 killer of teenagers.

There is some good news, however. A recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reported noted that fatalities for 2012 had dropped 7 percent from 2011. Similarly, the Safe Kids study said teenage auto deaths had dropped 56 percent from their peak in 2002, when nearly 5,500 children between the ages of 13 and 19 died.

The survey also provides some strategies for parents and families to stay safe while riding as a passenger and a driver.

  • Make using a seat belt for every ride a habit, starting when kids are young.
  • Be a safety role model by observing speed limits, putting phones away while driving, and following the rules of the road.
  • Talk to teens and kids about ways to speak up if a driver of any age isn’t driving safely.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also have some advice in the case you or your teen are involved in an auto accident. Remember to take the following 3 steps if you have been involved in an automobile accident or motor vehicle accident:

  • Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.
  • Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but DO NOT talk to anyone else (especially insurance adjusters) about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

For more tips and answers to frequently asked questions related to vehicle-related accidents, go to chainlaw.com, or visit our specialized site dedicated to helping those who have been involved in car accidents — www.bakersfieldcaraccidentlaw.com.